Can Fracking Lead to Increased Radon–A Contributor to Lung Cancer?

Can Fracking Lead to Increased Radon

Fracking Natural Gas and Radon: Recent research in Environmental Health Perspectives concluded that levels of radon in Pennsylvania homes where 42 percent of the reading surpass what is considered safe by the U S Government, have been rising since 2004 which is the time fracking for natural gas began in the state. Although there are now county differences between those with fracking and those without this difference did not exist prior to 2004. Researchers said “One plausible explanation for elevated radon levels in people’s homes is the development of thousands of unconventional natural gas wells in Pennsylvania over the past 10 years.”

In the study, over 860,000 indoor radon measurements between 1989 and 2013. the association of radon concentrations were evaluated with geology, water source, season, weather, community type and other factors.¬† Between 2003 and 2013, over 7,400 unconventional natural gas wells were drilled in Pennsylvania using hydraulic fracking to liberate natural gas from shale. Previously most conventional natural gas wells were created by drilling vertically into porous zones of rock formations to release the gas. In the fracking process drilling deep into the ground vertically and horizontally is followed by millions of gallons of water containing proprietary chemicals are pumped in to extract the gas. This process brings gas to the surface along with heavy metals and organic and radioactive materials such as radium-226, which decays into radon. Most radon exposure has been from indoor homes and other structures. Results showed that averaged over the whole study period, housing and other buildings using well water had a 21 percent higher concentration of radon than those using municipal water. In addition, houses and buildings located in rural areas where the most fracking was taking place had a 39 percent higher concentration than in cities. Researchers said “By drilling 7,000 holes in the ground, the fracking industry may have changed¬† the geology and created new pathways for radon to rise to the surface…..and potential ways that fracking may be distributing and spreading radon.”

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